Sunday, December 31, 2006

Nice pants

It's Day 7 of my Christmas vacation and I can feel my brain turning into jelly. It doesn't help that I tend to follow the boys around with a dustpan. Our house is small and with four bodies filling it from room to room, the clutter tends to pile up. Also, there's no escape from the Xbox, EPL review shows, GI Joe war games, or wrestling matches, so I'm going a little batty. We've had several days of rain, and now it's cold.

Honestly, I am counting the hours until I go back to work on Tuesday. I take refuge in the quiet repetitiveness of my job. Once everyone finishes sharing their New Year's celebration stories, I'll be back into the rhythm of productivity.

I have, however, been relatively productive here. I rallied the troops the day after Christmas to get all the decorations down and the house back to normal. I've worked on my scrapbooks and watched a couple of documentaries: Guns, germs & steel and When the levees broke. I've finished 4 books and am about to finish a 5th. I've made curtains for the boys' room and the guest room. We scouted out some new shades at Home Depot for our bedroom and the bathrooms. I've taught Sport how to do some strategic planning in Scrabble (he's getting pretty good) and we all tried to learn how to play our newest boardgame, Cranium.

I guess I'm feeling a bit of the post-Christmas letdown, although I'm glad it's over. I hate the way I feel the week before Christmas. Maybe it's my own weird hypersensitivity, but I swear I feel a pulsing energy rising from every store and home, a kind of collective desperation to meet ridiculously high expectations that gathers and melds into a shimmering entity that hovers over the city. I try to stay out of it myself, but it's not easy. And everytime I turn on the radio, someone is covering "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas." As far as I'm concerned, only 2 people are allowed to sing that song: Judy Garland and Karen Carpenter. For anyone else to attempt it is blasphemy.

I wore my new pants today. I finally caved in and purchased a pair of flaired hip-huggers. It took me back to their days of origin -- circa 1970. I was in elementary school and somehow acquired a stylish pair of white flaired pants. I can't remember shopping for them. Perhaps they were pulled out of the church donation box, as were many of our clothes. In that time, kids didn't really care what they wore, but I fell in love with these pants. They had at least a 12-inch spread and made a satisfying swish when I walked. (I would have worn them everyday if given the chance, but my mom manage to sneak them away for a washing when dirt rings formed on the hems.) Coordinated with a jazzy pink plaid top and platform shoes, I felt like a million bucks -- if, that is, I ignored my Bugs Bunny overbite and waifish freckles.

Anyway, I thought I might be pushing it, trying to wear pants similar to ones I wore in the 3rd grade. But Gouldie said they looked good, and hey, I really love these pants.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

How do you spell...

"Stop spelling and go to bed!"

We just watched Akeelah and the Bee. And yes, the boys are now would-be Scripps National Spelling Bee champions. It's an interesting phenomena, one I'm sure many parents are familiar with. Or perhaps our kids are weirdos. But everytime we watch a movie, they morph into the hero/heroine or animal of interest. We once looked at a documentary on chickens. After we put the video away, we found them wandering through the hallway, scratching at the carpet with their toes and clucking.

"Weren't you supposed to put those clothes away six hours ago? Why don't you go in there and spell yourself into a clean room!"

Hopefully everyone got what they wanted for Christmas. We gave each other the gift of new windows this year. I'm not sure how I got to this point -- craving home improvement items rather than new shoes, diamonds, or the newest pair of designer jeans, but I've arrived with a vengeance. In fact, as we took a walk this afternoon, SO and I played a game in which we imagined we'd won $10,000 and had to say how we'd spend it (two rules: we couldn't blow it on one thing, and no gifts to charity). The first five items I named all had to do with improving the house: wood floors, gutters, cabinets, countertops, garden fountain.

"Mom, ask me any word. I can spell it!"

Our Christmas gathering was a lot of fun. We spent it with SO's family, and these people know how to party. In general, we're able to avoid the two big no-no's: politics and religion. They serve up lots of delicious food and decadent baked goods! (I ate so much sugar, I'll probably get diabetes in 2007.) There's always lots of alcohol (I'm partial to strawberry daiquiris myself) and plenty of family members to talk about and/or counsel through difficult times. After taking a call from Houston, my favorite sis-in-law shook her head as she hung up the phone. "We are such a dysfunctional family!" I'm convinced all families are dysfunctional in their own way. In fact, I think Tolstoy could be tweaked a bit to read: "Functional families are all alike; every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way."

"How do you spell mistletoe?"

When I think of all the things we've been through since I hooked my family up with my hubby's, it sounds like the worst kind of afternoon talk show: teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, multiple divorces, embezzlement, spousal abuse, larceny, drug abuse, car accidents, brain injuries, jail. But behind each story is the face of a loved one. The heart has a great capacity for understanding, forgiveness and acceptance, and something else.

I spell it: G-R-A-C-E.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Encore, bravo, encore!

Sport’s piano recital was last weekend. This thing usually lasts about 3 hours (I am not exaggerating) as 30 students, ranging from the ages of 6 to 18, all perform a special piece of music. We are very proud of our boy, as he won the Outstanding Performer of the Year and was a big hit as The Narrator for the Romantic Period, looking adorable in his double-breasted suit and jaunty cap.

But I’m not going to brag on him.

About midway through the performance, two little old ladies came wobbling in and sat on our row. One was wearing her best Sunday-go-to-meetin’ fur coat. The other had her blue hair perfectly coiffed and was clutching a cavernous black bag. Settling into their chairs, faces creased with enigmatic smiles, they opened their programs to find the name of their musically-inclined loved one.

The auditorium in which the recital took place is no Carnegie Hall, but sound does travel. Shifting bodies, rustling papers, cranky babies – all combine to make distractions. We were warned by Ms. Melody at the beginning of the program to turn off cell phones and pagers and take crying children to the foyer. The two elders missed this particular speech.

During one rather long example of the Contemporary Period, the Woman in the Fur Coat (WFC) got a hankering for a Tic Tac. Tic Tacs, in a quiet space, are one of the loudest candies on the market. They got even louder when WFC fished for them in her bag, shook them in an effort to open the container, and then dropped her bag (and the entire contents) onto the floor.

It got even more interesting when the Blue-Haired Lady (BHL) got a call on her cell phone. It seemed to ring at least 5 times as she tried to locate it in the cavernous black purse.

“Hello?” BHL’s voice carried across the hall as the student on stage struggled with a difficult Scott Joplin piece.

“I’m at the recital.” Pause.

“The recital.” Her enigmatic smile dimmed slightly.

“I’m going to have to call you back.” Another pause.

“I. Will. Call. You. Back.” She carefully closed the phone. And, of course, did not turn it off.

A few minutes passed; then, her phone rang again.

“Hello?” Pause.

“I’m at the recital.” A sigh.

“The recital.” Slight cough.

“I’m going to have to call you back.” Clearing of the throat.

“I. Will. Call. You. Back.”

The exact same conversation, same inflection, same words, everything.

I got tickled and had to swallow down the giggles.

And then it rang again. By this time, I’m so cracked up at the whole thing that I’m feeling a wave of hysteria. Who in the world needs to talk to this 78-year-old woman so desperately that they keep calling back every five minutes? Does she have a secret lover? An impending book deal? Did she win the Publisher’s Weekly sweepstakes? Why didn't she turn off the damn phone?

LegoGuy saw me laughing into my coat and began giggling himself. SO, on the other side of us, started to lose it as well.

But what really got us happened in the middle of the last song. BHL’s phone rang again and at the same moment, WFC let go the longest, rat-a-tat-tat of a fart I’ve ever heard. Magnified by the acoustics of the hall, the sound was unmistakable.

As the music ended in a swell of fortissimo, applause filled the air. The three of us were able to finally let our laughter out, channeling guffaws into cries of “Bravo! Bravo!”

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I am not a loser.

I finished my Santa pillow! I started cross-stitching way back in 1994. As I was decorating the house for Christmas last weekend, I realized that I may be going overboard on this particular tradition. I've got about 16 of these, and I'm running out of places to put them. No, I don't keep them out all year, if that's what you're wondering. (I'm not a loser -- like Drew Barrymore's character in Never Been Kissed.) If I did that, they'd end up being ruined by the kids or chewed up by the dog. They come out once a year, and then are tucked back in the closet for the next 11 months.

This one, titled Santa & Friend, is my most recent.
(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Here's 3 others. Doesn't look like it, but that Merry Christmas one took longer than the other two.

This is the first one I made: Santa's enchanted sleigh.

My favorite: Santa Moon. The pattern wasn't difficult; it was the crazy quilt embroidered edges that nearly did me in.

Speaking of Christmas traditions, we've acquired so many over the years, it's almost hard to get them all in. To begin with, we decorate the tree the first weekend of December. I try to get the boys a special ornament from Hallmark. LegoGuy's been collecting the Kiddie Cars series since he was 2; unfortunately, the newest one is now sold out so I'm going to have to find it on Ebay -- at an exorbitant mark-up -- if he's going to have a complete collection. Sport's never found a series he likes. Last year he wanted a Harley Davidson motorcycle; this year, he went for the USA team jersey and soccer ball.

We've got 3 movies we watch: It's a wonderful life, A Christmas story, and A Muppet Christmas Carol. I usually take the boys to see the lights at a nearby children's home. We always head over to the Saint's house to decorate cookies with assorted icings and sprinkles.

I make up a Christmas letter and mail it to all our friends and relatives. Then there's usually a large family gathering at my family's house, after which we head over to SO's family for more merrymaking and gift-exchanging.

My favorite tradition, however, is the Christmas Eve candlelight service at my church. It's quiet, reflective, and beautiful -- a perfect ending to a busy, busy season.

Then, once January rolls around, it's time for me to start working on my next pillow. I've already picked out the pattern: Santa's midnight journey.

Okay, maybe I am a loser.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

White hell

Oklahoma blizzard, day 2.

A mountain of wet clothes sits disconsolately near the front door. Every pair of sweatpants in the closet lie there, along with mismatched sweatshirts, sodden socks, frozen mittens and soaked sneakers. Pools of icy mush litter the hallway. A couple of towels have been tossed aside with careless aplomb.

Pictionary Jr., Scrabble, Memory, Life, Battleship, and Operation have all been pulled off the shelf, played, and deemed "boring." The DVDs have been sorted, viewed, and tossed aside. The children are getting restless. Their 3-minute attention span can no longer be sated.

We already bundled up to take the dog for a walk at the pinnacle of the blizzard's high winds. An attempt was even made to build a snowman, despite the poor quality of the snow. Entertainment is at a low point. I'm getting desperate.

The boys have eaten every carbohydrate-laden snack in the house. We're down to a couple cans of soup and some stale bread. Even Bella's bacon treats are starting to look good. I'm beginning to feel like Tamsen Donner. Thank God SO doesn't have a hand injury or I'd have to start thinking of appetizing ways to serve him up for supper.

For a moment, I have a spark of hope. The library, it was rumored, would open at noon. I could make a break for it! But the phone call came, dashing my plans. Instead, SO is called into work due to a lack of employee turn-out.

I'm left staring into the hollow eyes of my children.

"What are we going to do now, Mom?"

I search my mind for something, anything. Reading? They wouldn't go for it. Old-fashioned ghost stories? They wouldn't last through the setting of the scene. Crafts? They'd only mock me.

Perhaps they sense my fear. Sport picks up a tiny soccer ball and bounces it up and down. LegoGuy, his eyes never leaving my face, pulls on his goalie gloves. It's time for a game of indoor football. If I never again hear the phrase, "Oh, what a beautiful goal from Steven Gerrard!" I will consider myself only moments away from nirvana.

Outside, the snow continues to fall. There's no escape from my white hell.

I didn't always dread snow days. In San Antonio, we had one about every 8 years. There's nothing more beautiful than snow on palm trees. My siblings and I once made a two-foot snowman by scraping our lawn with the lid of a trashcan. Sure, it was covered in St. Augustine turf, but it was beautiful nonetheless. In college, I was transfixed by falling snowflakes. During my first Oklahoma blizzard, we all got out and had a huge snowball fight. One of my friends, who'd grown up on the border of Texas and Mexico, convinced herself she'd gotten frostbite. We made fun of her relentlessly. Snow days are a blast when you've only got yourself to entertain.

But throw two kids into the mix, and it's impossible to spend hours reading by the fire, or cross-stitching quietly on the couch while listening to Christmas CDs. They want to be doing something constantly. If they aren't entertained, they're bored. And when they're bored, all hell breaks loose.

Oh God, what was that noise? Did they just knock down the trophy shelf? They did! Back in a little while...


I know, I know, I'll miss all of this when they are grown and gone. I believe you! I really do. LegoGuy is spending tonight at a friend's house. He's been gone for 6 hours now, and I miss him and his interminable, rambling soccer discussions. I miss the riotous laughter he and his brother share when they're up to something, or when we watch funny movies together like The Money Pit. I just hope it's six months before we get another Oklahoma blizzard.

I need the rest.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

They call me Misopedia (but only on a really bad day)

I’ve just validated the effectiveness of one of my oldest coping skills. When dreading an event, I’ll come up with a handful of terrible things that could happen. When nothing even comes close to the horrors of my overactive imagination, I can say, “That wasn’t so bad.”

I survived Thanksgiving. It was kind of fun, actually.

The boys slept late. SO and I popped out of bed and started making the sweet potato casserole, Hershey’s chocolate cake, and dinner rolls. I turned on the parade. When the boys came dragging into the living room, they were immediately bored by the floats, marching bands, and lip-synching pop stars. They donned their soccer gear and went outside.

At 10:30, I pulled a wine cooler out of the fridge and took a drink. It didn’t get me tipsy, but psychologically, I felt prepared. By 11:30 we were loading up the van for the short drive to my parent’s house.

“How’s Dad?” I asked my brother while we were unloading the food.

“I’d say he’s a 5 on the Gripe-O-Meter,” he replied. “Started out at 2, but Baby Sis called to say she would be late, and he shot up to a 7. He’s had a while to calm down, so I think he’s evened out at the half-way mark.”

Thank God! Dad had already fixed his baleful eye on another member of the family. Baby Sis was going to be the focus of his ire. I was home free! I’d left another wine cooler in the van as a back-up plan, but it seemed I wouldn’t be needing it. Sure enough, when my sister showed up nearly 30 minutes late, she’d also forgotten the pumpkin pie. Let the griping begin!

Even better, both my kids ate their dinner without complaint. Baby Sis’s oldest child is the world’s pickiest eater. The only way he maintains his stocky build is by gorging on sweets and French fries. He whined through most of the meal, taking the white hot light of Dad’s critical eye off my boys. Anyone who refuses to eat a home-cooked meal earns my father’s ridicule and disdain.

Anyone, apparently, but this 3rd and favorite grandchild. My dad chuckled with amusement when Baby Sis threatened the kid. “You won’t get any chocolate cake!”

“Neither will you, if you don’t clean your plate,” Dad threw back at her.

We successfully avoided any kind of political or religious discussions by playing one of my dad’s favorite games, Balderdash. He doesn't play to win; he plays to amuse. He likes making up definitions for obscure words, but he absolutely loves reading the definitions the rest of us come up with. He actually laughed so hard, he had tears running down his face.

Some samples:


  • mineral found only in the Dead Sea
  • a chemical used to make ale
  • excessive bullying from below the Mason-Dixon line


  • a wooden spike
  • fancy pen
  • famed playwright of the Algonquin Roundtable


  • early American hat
  • ancient form of flying creature from the Cretaceous Period
  • round pebbles found in brooks or streams


  • embalming fluid used in Ancient Egypt
  • Japanese fish chowder
  • a silver killfish found along the US Atlantic ocean


  • parlor game
  • lapdog-like creature from Star Wars lore
  • one who is constipated


  • mutant animal created in a secret lab, a mix of crab and rabbits
  • religious fanatics
  • clogging dance group sensation based out of Pottawatamie County, OK, who rose to the height of popularity during the 1960s before dying in a tragic tainted crawfish-eating contest


  • Dictionary of bugs
  • Compendium of stories
  • hating children, especially your own

My dad was in such a good mood after the game ended, he even challenged me to a game of Scrabble. (I refused, remembering the last time we played in which I was reduced to tears by his accusations that I was cheating. How do you cheat at Scrabble, short of raiding the bag when nobody else is looking?) I think I'm going to incorporate Balderdash in every family gathering from now on. Once the tension starts to mount and the fur to fly, I'll pull it out.

"I've been bolied by you crawthumpters once too often. Now grab a tib and let's have us a gleb!"

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bottoms up!

Robert Benchley was an avid teetotaler until Prohibition made the speakeasy the hangout of the privileged in-crowd. One night in the fall of 1920, as Dorothy Parker and another friend ordered a round of drinks, he asked them to get him something other than his usual glass of orange juice. At the tender age of 31, Benchley took his first social drink, putting him on the road to alcoholism and eventual death due to cirrhosis of the liver.

I'm not sure I'm ready for social drinking yet, but starting on Thursday, I'm gonna have to get used to knocking back a few in the privacy of my own home. I figure a couple or three bottles of Mike's Hard Lemonade will be all it takes to put a rosy hue on the festivities. The best laid plans of Saint and Queen have fallen apart, and I'm spending Thanksgiving with my family.

It helps to remember what my pastor said this morning. "Every family is dysfunctional in its own way." During our family gatherings, if I'm not criticized for my choice of churches, political affiliation, or for being an all-around smarty pants, then I'm often accused of cheating at Scrabble or am taken to task for my unusually large vocabulary which puts me, according to the clan, at an unfair advantage when playing Balderdash.

Other past Harvest highlights:

  • The year my brother put my (now ex-) brother-in-law in a sleeper hold, nearly causing unconsciousness
  • The infamous dishwasher loading debacle of 2001
  • The gun control debate
  • The "What I Am Thankful For" 45-minute prayer
  • The "Racist Joke" moratorium of 1998
  • The ceremonial retelling of the "Give Them Kids the White Bread" incident
  • The paper-plate fiasco of 2003
For whatever reason, our gatherings are usually tense -- at least for me. And now that I know there's no escaping it, I'm determined to make the best of it. This time, I'm not going to get my feelings hurt. This time, I'm going to have fun. This time, I'm going to compete and win at whatever game we decide to play -- no quarter asked, no quarter given! And if it takes a dash of spirits to get me through it, then so be it.

Cheers, everybody-- hope you have a great holiday! (Hiccup.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

It's time to form a committee to plan our annual Christmas Luncheon, the one thing that passes for a social event at my workplace in which we are all invited to whip up a dish of our favorite holiday recipes -- concoctions that call for at least one can of Campbell's soup, a cup of chopped onion, and a "mystery" ingredient passed down from generation to generation.

I was committee chair last year. It's an honor that is supposed to rotate from one department to another, yet this week I was asked to be chair once again. I was flattered and horrified at the same time. Eager to push the responsibility onto someone else, I stammered, "W..w..what about the chair rotation precedent?" The white hot spotlight of responsibility moved from me and focused on another.

Don't get me wrong; I like parties. My favorite time of year is October when I get to plan and execute our annual pumpkin carving party that once got to be so popular among my friends and family, I had to start limiting invitations. I've served on the Christmas Luncheon Committee (CLC) a number of times in various capacities: decorating, clean-up, music, set-up, meat delivery. There seem to be more rules and regulations involved in the planning than there is in a peace treaty negotiated by the United Nations between North Korea and their terrified neighbors to the south. It's a heck of a lot of work, but the food is always good. Sometimes there are complaints, but most people appreciate the endeavor.

Serving as chair, however, is another matter. As Ben Parker famously said, "With great power comes great responsibility." The truth is, I failed in my duties as committee chair. I lost the meat.

There, I said it. Even now it hurts to think about the eager faces, plates in hand, opening the refrigerator the day after last year's Christmas Luncheon to find a foil-topped tray absolutely bereft of smoked briskit and oven-roasted turkey. The day before, I'd watched as committee members consolidated the two trays of meat into one giant vat of cooked flesh easily weighing 10 pounds, licking their lips at the thought of the leftover feast awaiting us all. Alas, it was not to be. By noon the next day, the meat was gone, leaving behind only the faint aroma of barbeque sauce and gravy.

There were plenty of suspects, but few clues. Co-workers were considered and then ruled out, until only a tiny handful of possible culprits remained. There was no proof, so only suspicions remain. The Great Meat Mystery of 2005 remains unsolved to this day.

But I won't give up. As O.J. Simpson famously promised to find "the real killer or killers" of his ex-wife and her friend, so have I vowed to find out who took the meat (that is, unless I can get a publishing deal for a book I'd call If I Took It, a purely hypothetical exercise in which I describe how I would have pulled off the meat heist).

Not that I'm admitting anything, mind you.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

You're yearning, burning for somebody to tell you that life ain't passing you by

It's been awhile since the Class of 1986 held onto the ivy ring, threw our caps into the air and said our goodbyes. When I walked off campus that spring day, I didn't think I'd be back in five years, much less 20.

Forgot about the fact that I'd been elected Senior Class VP. Apparently, it's a lifetime appointment. I might have had second thoughts about running if I'd realized I'd be on the reunion planning committee for the rest of my life. To be honest, I was only trying to get my picture in the yearbook.

We had a pretty good group show up this year, some of my very best buddies. Three of the five original "Manhunters" from Sophomore Follies were there. We reminisced about the faculty and staff directors who, during rehearsal, told us we couldn't shake our hips to the song, forcing us to re-choreograph part of the routine.

Most of the perps from the Great Police Helicopter Chase showed up as well: the driver and four of the passengers. Huffaker retold the story and we all mocked Mercer once again. She was the only one of us who asked to be dropped off at the dorm on our way to the police station, since she'd never been in trouble before.

A contingency of representatives from the Dallas Friday Night Getaway also dropped by, as well as those who went on the Hereford Homecoming Weekend, took part in the infamous Barn Dance, the Toad Suck Daze retreat, Heart Pal Court Bowling Night, every class trip, and much more. I didn't realize how many wild, crazy, and downright stupid things we'd done. One mother gazed at the group of our children nearby and sighed. "If my kid did something like that, I'd kill 'em." A tremor of fear went through us. Once our kids get to college, they aren't going to tell us anything. And it's probably a good thing.

I spent a lot of time visiting with one girl who wasn't part of my crowd. I remember being jealous of her because she snagged a boyfriend during freshman year and continued to date him throughout the next four years. So devoted was he to her that for his photography class project, he created an entire slide show featuring pictures of her -- backlit, soft focus, set to music (I believe it was "Wind beneath my wings"). Meanwhile, the rest of us gals glowered in the classroom, nursing our broken hearts. The couple, still married, had a couple of teenage kids with them and they were all really cool.

Gouldie put together an amazing slide show. She also wowed us with a set of trivia questions: five from each year. A sampling:

  • How many chapels were we allowed to miss during a semester?
  • This fancy free movie became the theme for our sophomore class trip.
  • During our junior year, who gained international attention as the leader of the Polish solidarity movement?
  • What terrible event happened during our senior year, on Jan. 28, 1986?

As much as I complained about having to pull this thing together, I'm glad I made the effort. In their company, the years fell away again. I felt like I was 18 again and breaking curfew to hang out on the dock at the lake, listening to Thriller, or sneaking away to play hide-and-seek in a graveyard with a bunch of other goofballs.

As one reunion attendee put it, "It was 4 years of church camp!" Minus the adult supervision.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Happy now?

Update: Okay you relentless, competitive folks, here's my updated version:



Are you happy now? You better be!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Down the rabbit hole

When I woke up this morning, I thought I'd somehow been transported to a parallel universe. How else to explain:

  • Democrats taking the House
  • Democrats close to taking the Senate
  • Donald Rumsfeld resigning
  • Bush admitting Democrats care about national security as much as he does
  • Bush offering to help Nancy Pelosi decorate her office as she becomes the first woman Speaker of the House

Where's the Mad Hatter? Where's the White Rabbit?

I went into the midterm election with about a 90% certainty that, despite the apparent mood of the country and will of the people, dirty politicians would somehow fix the election to skew their way through voter intimidation, malfunctioning Diebold machines, and subterfuge. I had only a smidgen of hope that things would turn out the way I wanted: I want the 2-party system to work again!

Tomorrow, I'll start fretting, but today I'm letting myself feel happy and hopeful about the future. I heard some nameless commentator say that people who were worried about the direction of the country and the state of American democracy should be happy today. It still works! This guy says it better than I could: Is America a great country or what?

Cataloged a fun book this afternoon aimed at elementary kids: If you were an adjective. On the back, the author writes: If you were an adjective, you would make the world colorful. You could be spectacular, brilliant, dazzling, or daring. He offers a challenge: write your name from top to bottom and think of adjectives that describe you.

  • Audreyesque
  • Quirky


  • inQuisitive
  • fUn
  • Energetic
  • Empathetic
  • Nice

I cheated a little, but I think it works.

Okay, humor me. Saint, DoOL, Gypsy, Minx, Loonie, PastGrace, and other faithful readers, it's your turn!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Weekend miscellany

­­Gouldie’s son was baptized at church yesterday. As she and her Sweetie stood before us with a contingency of family and friends, The Boy entertained all of us with his refreshing honestly. “Will you promise me something?” asked the minister. “Will you always remember you are a child of God, and a child of this congregation, and we all love you?” The Boy shook his head no, to the laughter of all who were watching.

My in-laws came back from England bearing gifts: soccer jerseys for all the boys. LegoGuy was ecstatic to receive a Kelly green jersey from Ireland; Sport nearly came unglued when he was given an England team jersey with BECKHAM emblazoned on the back; SO looked all of 10 years old when they handed him a Liverpool jersey. “I’m going to wear this to bed tonight!” he joked. I got a bag of English candy and a David Beckham calendar. Mmmmm.

We had our Staff Appreciation dinner on Saturday night. One night a year, library staff dusts off some of our more formal clothes and mingle. I even put on a pair of heels. (I forget how painful high heels are – but they sure make my legs look darn good, even if I do say so myself.) My good buddy, The Saint, won a major award. That, in itself, was worth the effort of finding something to wear, fixing my hair, and caking on the make-up. Even better was what Sport had to say when I got home. Half asleep, he asked me what had happened.

“The Saint won!”

“What did he win?”

“Five hundred dollars!”

“Cold, hard cash?”

Sport was served a piece of humble pie after his previously undefeated soccer team lost, 6-3. Their star player didn’t show up, and they stumbled during the first half as the other team’s star player got a hat trick. Sport put on the goalie gloves after the half and successfully defended while the Wildcats evened up the score. But during the last quarter, the coach put in another goalie, and 3 more goals were scored, each by the same hotshot. It was a bitter pill to swallow. “There goes our record,” Sport moaned.

LegoGuy spent Saturday morning cooking an appreciation lunch for The 363, a group at our church that usually cooks and serves meals to the homeless every other weekend. He spent 3 hours dicing vegetables, serving hot plates of food, scooping ice cream and washing dishes. Through it all he was pleasant and upbeat. “At least I didn’t have to chop onions!”

As for me, I gave one of my favorite videos another viewing: Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. I love Dorothy Parker. I love the 1920s: my favorite decade. I love the clothes. I'd give anything to go back in time and spy on the Algonquin Roundtable. But watching the film again made me think, if you're going to be famous, it's better to die young.

So it's probably a good thing I'm not famous.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Protocols of Halloween

Only 30 minutes from the onset of darkness, Sport discovered that a key element of his Halloween costume was missing, left at his grandmother's. I had a scant half hour to come up with something that would satisfy his urge to transform into a thing otherworldly. I searched through my craft drawer and found some make-up from last year's scream fest. After a hurried consultation, we came up with the possibility of a Dead Pirate.

I layered the kid's face in white make-up, gave him some deep-set eyes and a mouth dripping with blood. LegoGuy let him borrow a set of bubba teeth. I found an old blonde wig. Sport was sufficiently scary, but he also looked like his costume had been thrown together at the last minute. Which it had.

The wig hair kept getting in his eyes, so we tied a bandana around his head. He transformed into a Dead Hippie. That wasn't scary enough for him, however. He wanted to carry a bloody knife.

"Hippies don't carry knives. They're all about peace and love, man!"

Frustration mounted. This wasn't good enough for Halloween. It had to look better. We scrounged through the costume box. Finally, the child's love of sports saved the day. We pulled off the hippie duds and put on the OU football uniform. He became: the Dead Football Player.

LegoGuy, too old this year for trick-or-treating (his words, not ours) volunteered to man the candy station. SO and I layered up and went out into the wind, joining a handful of children trekking down our street.

At first, the DFP was sluggish. The siren call of candy wasn't as captivating this year. Maybe he missed his brother. Maybe he was too cold. Maybe his OU helmet was blocking his view. Whatever the explanation, he started to get into the groove and increased his door-to-door speed when we made it to the next block.

SO and I commented, as we do every year, on the sparse crowd of kids. Aaahh, how we longed for the good old days, when hundreds of kids ran through the neighborhood, screaming in terror as home-owners jumped from behind bushes, or dressed as scarecrows, standing motionless until hapless children came into sight, then scaring the bejeezus out of them. Those were some good times!

With so many different arenas vying for their participation -- the mall, churches, and schools -- those kids who do traditional trick-or-treating are relatively few in number. There's also a limited amount of home-owners who participate, and fewer houses with their porch lights on, beckoning kids to the door.

And don't get me started on those houses that break proper Halloween protocol.

If you've got your porch light on Halloween night, and you don't answer your door to desperate, sugar-craving kids, you have broken a sacred trust. Your house should be egged; the windows of your car ought to be soaped. Worse still are those houses that are decorated for Halloween, with porch lights on, but no one home. What is a child to think of that? And what of those homes with no porch lights on, but they're decorated for Halloween, and the lights are on in the living room. It's a mixed message, people! You are messing with kids' minds! They don't know what to do. We came across groups of small children, frozen with indecision, whimpering on darkened lawns. It's a terrible thing to do to the costumed.

We only came across one house who truly had the spirit of Halloween's past. Their porch light had been replaced by a black light. Something -- someone? -- lurked on the front porch: faceless, lumpy, looking much like a giant potato. As the DFP walked by, the Potato-Man made guttural noises, trying to lure our ghostly athlete to the stash of candy hidden nearby.

"Don't you want to go up?" we asked the DFP.

"No way!" He went to the next house. SO and I stood on the street and watched as the Potato-Man inched closer. Moaning, he held out his misshapen hand. DFP made a beeline for the next house. Potato-Man turned toward us, gesturing. We giggled nervously and followed our kid, moving from the past and into the present.

Here's the Dead Hippie, before he morphed into the Dead Football Player.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Sunday morning, I finished charting our schedule for the next week. We have a dry-erase calendar in the kitchen on which we track key events. It’s the best way to keep up with school, church, and extra-curricular events. As I made the last entry, my heart started palpitating. I’m not sure I’m going to survive:

• 2 parent/teacher conferences
• Trick-or-treating (with last-minute costume alterations)
• Piano practice
• Soccer practice (rescheduled from Halloween night)
• Camp Read-A-Lot
• A visit to the nursing home to see Grandma
• Youth group activity (lunch for the homeless)
• Soccer game
• Staff recognition dinner
• Dinner with the in-laws

The next week isn’t much better. In addition to soccer and piano practice, there’s the added stress of:

• Orchestra practice
• Orchestra concert
• Voting
• 3rd grade music program
• SNU basketball game
• My 20-year college class reunion

From the end of October until the first of January, this is the busiest time of year for me. Add to the mix:

• Sport’s birthday
• Thanksgiving
• Holiday parties
• Christmas
• New Year’s Eve

I can see a major illness brewing ahead of me. Each fall, I usually get hit with an upper respiratory infection that knocks me out for a week. It’s my body’s way of making me rest. I think I’m already headed that way. Bad allergies have lingered for two weeks. I haven’t slept more than two hours solid in four days.

I’m starting to hallucinate.

Or maybe there’s a reasonable explanation for the guy in a bear suit checking out books from a tutu-wearing circ clerk.

Friday, October 27, 2006

You really will go blind

Came across an interesting fact in a book I cataloged this week. The subtitle: More questions you'd only ask a doctor after your third whiskey sour. The fact that caught my eye was the answer to the question: Why do you sneeze when you stare at the sun?

I've never given much thought to the medical rationale behind this phenomena, but I'm very familiar with it. I always thought my sun sneezing had to do with allergies. Looking at the sun -- heck, looking at any bright light -- could bring on a bout of sneezing. "I'm allergic to the sun!" I'd think as a kid. Then I'd try to convince myself I was only imagining it. Turns out, I'm not crazy. I have a photic sneeze reflex. Approximately 10 to 25 percent of the population are sun-sneezers. My fellow cataloger, Junior Cat, is one as well. What are the odds of that, eh?

It's genetic, too. According to the book, "if one of your parents is a sun-sneezer, you have a 50 percent chance of being a sun-sneezer too." Does Mom carry the gene, or is it Dad? And which one of my boys has it now? I'll have to force them to stare at the sun this weekend.

I've been doing a lot of sneezing lately. As we get nearer to the Nov. 7th election, I'm rolling my eyes upward and uttering prayers in an effort to remain calm. Everytime I hear someone predict the Democrats are going to take back the House, and possibly the Senate, I glance skyward and hope nobody jinxes it. I'm not greedy; I'll settle for the House. I'm not naive, I know that Democratic politicians can be as easily corrupted as Republican ones. I'd just like to see some oversight. I don't like all the power to be in the hands of one party. It's too easy to let things slide. Throw the bums out!

Did you know the photic sneeze relfect is considered to be a risk factor to combat pilots? I hope LegoGuy doesn't have it. That will bring a crashing end to his dreams of becoming an Air Force pilot.

I hope the Nov. 7th elections don't bring about a crashing end to mine.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Why girls should rule the world

As a former PK, I’ve no desire to get involved at my church. After countless years spent in service to Sunday School, YMS, NWMS, revivals, quizzing, lock-ins, Bible studies, nursery attendant, and other endless church-related activities, I’m happy to sit near the back, anonymous and quiet, while others rise to meet their religious obligations. I’ve put in my time, baby! I’m not volunteering for anything.

On the other hand, when asked for help, I’m unable to say no.

I was asked to sub as Pre-K teacher on Sunday. Squaring my shoulders, I marched into the classroom, glancing through the curriculum workbook, scrounging to find paint and color pages while cutting out cards for a Moses-themed memory game. Sport helped arrange chairs while LegoGuy distributed materials neatly on the tiny tables. I was ready to go. I eyeballed the clock. I had 45 minutes to spend with the 3- and 4-year-olds. No problem!

Seven smartly dressed Pre-K’s waltzed in; two boys immediately headed to the giant lego table. One boy hung onto his mother’s knee until she gently disengaged him and made a quick exit. Four little girls sat politely at the table and awaited instructions.

“Let’s color!” I said, passing around a container of paint and a basket of crayons.

They reached for the washable paints and started mixing colors with a terrible disregard for the color wheel. The two boys at the back of the room continued to remove toys from the toy box, tossing them on the floor. Mama’s Boy sat by himself at another table, confused.

Mini-people of this age only have an attention span of about 7 minutes. Coloring started to wear thin until I grabbed a paint stick and started adding decorations to their already overly-decorated creations. The girls started laughing. Mama’s Boy shrugged and abandoned his paper for the raucous activity near the toy box. Eventually, some of the girls grew tired of coloring and left me for the puzzle table. I glanced at the clock: 35 minutes to go. Good God!

Starting to sweat, I gathered them into a circle for snacks. I quickly read the Bible story. (Who on Earth wrote this lesson? What kid cares about the creation of the tabernacle curtain in Jerusalem?) I cut the story short and passed out Dixie cups half-filled with Cheerios. They each wanted a cup of water, then begged for seconds on the cereal. Only 30 minutes left!

I shuffled the deck of Moses cards and arranged them. All my girls and Mama’s Boy wanted to play. I even managed to interest Rowdy Boy #1, enticing him from a game of throwing cars at Rowdy Boy #2.

When you’re 4 years old, you don’t want to take turns. I felt like Kofi Annan, negotiating a particularly tricky treaty with North Korea, Iran and Venezuala. The boys eventually drifted away, frustrated by diplomacy. My girls remained polite and firm.

“We must learn how to share,” said a blue-eyed cutie, fingering her beret.

Another moppet, wearing a red jumper decorated with Scottie dogs, exercised her impeccable manners. “May I please see your cell phone? Thank you very much.”

Meanwhile, the noise at the back of the room was reaching the ear-piercing levels experienced at a Flaming Lips concert. I was certain the teacher next door was starting to seethe.

Glancing at the girls, we rolled our eyes. They shook their heads, clucking their tongues in disapproval. We dodged a flying tiger as it soared over our table.

“Boys,” said one bobbed-hair angel, her voice thick with disapproval.

“This is why girls should rule the world,” I whispered, and we all giggled.

Putting an end to the fracas, I gathered them around me -- three in my lap, one on each arm of the chair, two sitting at my feet -- and told them a story. Something about a giant boy who wore shoes made of pizza. It kept them quiet until their parents came to collect them.

I really hope their teacher isn’t sick next week. I need at least a year to recover.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Holiday Wars

So I was totally unprepared for the phone call I got from my mom on Monday. She often calls me at work, even though she knows I don't like to get personal calls unless there's an emergency. The subject of this particular emergency? Thanksgiving Day. It’s not even November! Let the Holiday Wars begin.

I hate the holidays.

I used to love them, back when I was unattached and unencumbered. My parents never went anywhere for Thanksgiving or Christmas. We always stayed home. On Thanksgiving morning, we kids lounged in front of the TV watching the parades. Lunch was promptly served at noon. We nibbled on leftovers the rest of the day.

Christmas was the same. We rushed the tree at the crack of dawn, roused my parents out of bed with our excited cries, and spent the morning playing with our new toys. Lunch was served promptly at noon. We nibbled on leftovers the rest of the day.

When I got married, we spent our first Christmas in our apartment in Washington, D.C., and ate a Christmas supper with friends. It was when we eventually moved back to Oklahoma that things got complicated. First, we had to deal with SO’s parents. This wasn’t such a big deal, because my mother-in-law is an excellent cook and my father-in-law makes great daiquiris. I didn’t really want to labor over an enormous holiday dinner when it was just the two of us, so I didn’t mind spending the day with them.

Then we had LegoGuy. And my parents decided to retire and move up to live nearby. And two of SO’s sisters settled in town. And my little sister settled in town. Suddenly, we had all these kinfolks living around us, and every one of them wanted us to spend part or all of the holidays with them.

Guilt is my mother’s weapon of choice, and she uses it very effectively. She’s starting early this year, trying to woo us into abandoning our plans for turkey at home and come along with them to Furrs Cafeteria for an 11:00 feast. “You know, your brother was hurt that you didn’t come last year.”

Now, I’d checked with my brother when I learned Mom wasn’t going to cook for the holidays anymore. He wasn’t pleased about going to a restaurant, but he’s a good guy. “I’d rather have a home-cooked meal, but I’ll go just to make Mom happy.”

“It’s your mother who’s hurt,” SO said. And he was right. My parents don’t believe in face-to-face communication. Eventually, I heard it from my sister, who’d gotten a tearful phone call from Mom. “She just wants us all to be together on Thanksgiving.”

Why they want to be with us at all is beyond me. They obviously don't want us around for the conversation, since we're not allowed to talk about anything other than immediate family members or the weather. Politics and religion are absolutely forbidden. My in-laws actually like us, and they serve alcohol. My parents think drinking is sinful, so there’s nothing to take the edge off simmering resentment and barely-concealed grudges: like when I forgot her birthday, or when I yelled at my dad that he was a hypocrite, or when I left the Nazarene church and started going to a progressive one that welcomes gays and lesbians. That was years ago, you might say. But they haven’t forgotten.

I'd love to have everyone over at my house, and avoid all these hurt feelings, but my table only seats 4 and the place is too small. I’ve heard of people renting hotel banquet rooms in which to feed their extended families during the holidays. Is this something we’ll eventually have to resort to?

Or maybe I'll get me a bottle of tranquilizers. Take the easy way out. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Just call me Sisyphus

I’m not proud of it, but I had a major meltdown in front of the kids. It may have been brought on by one dirty sock too many left on the floor, one too many misplaced shoes, one too many pairs of glasses hit on the door jam and stretched out of shape despite the fact we’d gotten them from the optometrist’s shop less than 24 hours before. Anyway, I snapped. “I don’t get paid enough to be your mother! Where’s my 15-minute break?”

I spent the weekend laboring like Sisyphus, trying to keep one step ahead of them in their endless attempts to trash the house. They don’t do this maliciously. They are simply oblivious to clutter. Trust me, I’ve tested them. I once placed a basket of neatly folded clothes in the entryway of their bedroom door. For five days they stepped over it to get into their room. Five days! We finally had to threaten them with a week of early bedtimes until they emptied the basket. I had a sneaking suspicion that they threw them all in the hamper just to get rid of them.

I did pretty well on Saturday. I cleaned and de-cluttered the kitchen, library and den. I remained vigilant, like a Roman soldier guarding the gates from the northern barbarians. I even managed to spend 2 hours in the garden while the boys played the Xbox, hypnotized by the flashy movements of animated warriors.

On Sunday, however, I was tired. I spent 30 minutes in my room putting away my own clean clothes. When I emerged, it was too late. The trashing had begun. I was unable to do more than utter a half-hearted protest. When SO’s at work, I’m outnumbered. It’s easier to retreat, cowering in the corner until he gets home.

Usually, when I'm at my lowest point, and I think my skills as a parent suck, the kids will do something that will make it all worthwhile. After I'd dressed for church, it was LegoGuy who said, "Mom, you are so beautiful." And he was sincere! Thank God for make-up.

That night, as I tucked Sport into bed, he pulled me close and whispered something into my ear.

"I can't even count how many times I farted today."


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My "So-Called John"

I have vivid dreams. Sometimes they are really disturbing, like the one I had after spending a solid month cataloging materials for the Holocaust Resource Collection (HRC) for the downtown library. In this nightmare, I was herded into the back of a truck with a group of wailing women. We all clung to each other, sobbing, because we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that our husbands and children were dead. During college, I had one in which a serial killer came crashing through my window with two white wolves at his side. He proceeded to stab me. I’ve also witnessed a nuclear explosion. That one really sucked.

But I don’t always have nightmares. Once I dreamed Bono was my best friend. I have dreams where I fly over rooftops, and it’s a really great feeling. My most recent dream involved Leonardo DiCaprio, communion, and sweaty sex. (I’m not even going to try to interpret that one.)

Like his mother, Sport has some really interesting dreams. The last one he told us about was hilarious. I don’t remember the subject matter now, but there was a guy in it who went by the name of “So-Called John.” Where did Sport come up with that one? Perhaps he’s heard me talking about my latest endeavor to make a couple of new friends. (You know who you are, J & D!)

Am I wrong in thinking that making new friends carries with it a certain level of unease? It’s a lot like dating. We all try to put ourselves in the best possible light, opening up a tad here and there to expose a hint of who we really are. That means being a little vulnerable and risking the agony of rejection.

At the beginning of a new friendship, shades of sarcasm and twists of language can easily be misinterpreted. What if I say something that I think is really clever but J thinks is absolutely stupid? What if D thinks I’m too old to really contribute anything of value to her life? What if they remove me from their FaceBooks and never even tell me why?

I guess I shouldn’t sweat it. I’m pretty much beyond the point of worrying about what other people think of me. Still, there’s just enough self-doubt lurking beneath the surface to make the whole process of friend-making unnerving.

But I really like making new friends. And I love being around old ones. It’s so much better than having a bad dream. Unless “So-Called John” is there, and we’re hanging out with Bono while flying over rooftops in order to escape a nuclear holocaust.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The toast of New Orleans

John Waters has a pencil-thin mustache and a killer sense of fashion. Not just a director, he also dabbles in art. He's also a bit of a flirt. While we walked through his gallery, he cast an appreciative eye over Snickers, who is not easily starstruck, and they discussed art for awhile. The rest of us tried not to stare. Later, we asked Snickers what he thought of John, or, as td put it rather bluntly, "Would you do him?" Snickers shrugged. "He's not my type, but I might for the story."

It would be an understatement to say I had a good time in New Orleans. I'm not sure I can convey how much fun it was. The city is trying to recover, and the tourist section looks just fine, although the crowds are sparse, and in the French Quarter, people of color are scarce. Many of the buildings are in the process of being fixed, some have been demolished, others are condemned. I didn't go on the "Devastation tour" so I didn't see how the rest of the city was faring. I heard many Katrina-related stories and I saw some FEMA trailers on the drive from the airport. It's going to be a long time before things are back to normal there. I really hope they don't get hit with another hurricane.

It was the company I kept that made the whole experience so great. I adore Snickers and td, and I always will. And there was a good group of friends who came to show support for td's art opening. His pictures were incredible and sparked a lot of interest. I felt so proud of his accomplishments; all of us were. It's really comfortable being around someone with whom you share a lot of history. And it's fun to meet others who have the same appreciation for that someone.

"I just want to let you know that I don't have much room on my plate for another friend. So you don't have to try so hard," Carter, one of td's pals, told me with refreshing honesty. So I immediately set out to win him over. After a waiter spilled red wine all over his back and my foot, we bonded, and by the end of the weekend, he grudgingly called me his friend. Yes!

New Orleans is definitely a Mecca for foodies. My seatmates from Dallas to the Big Easy were obsessed with food. Large women with booming voices, they proceeded to talk about food from the moment they fastened their seatbelts to the moment we landed. I gave up part of my seat to the flowing curve of a stray buttock. It pressed against me like a friendly puppy. Turning to look out the window, it cuddled up to the small of my back as I overheard stories about crepes, crawfish, jumbalaya, gumbo, cheesecake, popcorn shrimp, fried chicken, and all the other meals these ladies were anticipating. Luckily, I wasn’t hungry, since American Airlines no longer serves peanuts along with the half a glass of flat soda they dole out as a way of saying, “Thanks for flying with us!”

During breakfast at the B&B, I was my usual cheery self, although I tried to bring it down a notch when Snickers dragged himself to the table. "You remember what I'm like in the mornings, right?" he managed to say in a raspy voice. How could I not remember? He was a notorious grouch. "Good." He drank his coffee and looked at the paper while I thumbed through the local section to see if td's show was mentioned.

One of my favorite moments came when Pam gave a toast to congratulate td on a successful opening. It went on and on (she was obviously moved), and as I looked around the table, I really fell in love with all these people.

Then, after the toast was over, they all started mocking her, and I loved them even more.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Art, champagne, and the Big Easy

I'm all in a dither because tomorrow I'm flying to the Big Easy! This is my first solo weekend getaway in about 10 years and I can't wait to paint the town red. (I just hope the painting isn't done with my own blood.) I've had a lot of friends telling me to be careful. If you turn the TV on and see some hapless touist being pulled out of a cab and tossed around like a rag doll, it will probably be me.

My college buddy td is having an art show, and I'm meeting him and Snickers in New Orleans for the opening. God, I hope I don't do anything stupid and embarrass myself. The last thing I want is to be put on the spot and blurt out a comment about someone's painting. I'll say it right now: I am not qualified to comment on art! I either like something or I don't. I can't talk about composition, perspective, light, shading, shadow or technique. I can only comment on how the art makes me feel. I think I'm just going to drink a lot of champagne and people-watch. Should make for some interesting blog entries.

The most embarassed I've ever been when it comes to viewing art is the day I took my father to visit the Hirshhorn modern art museum in Washington, D.C. I didn't purposefully set out to show him this museum. He'd come up for a visit, and the metro dumped us out near the Smithsonian Castle. Walking down the gravel path, we came upon the modern art museum and he wandered in, drawn by the enormous Alexander Calder mobiles hanging in the courtyard. I followed reluctantly.

I should have pulled him out the first time he pointed and giggled.

While I could appreciate the human figures made of bronze, he saw only headless, lumpy ladies with saggy breasts. I tried to put myself inside the empty space of a painting with only one red line; Dad said a child could do better than that. His reaction to the mixed media exhibits were gales of guffaws. It got worse and worse, and I started to feel like he was reverting back to an Arkansas hillbilly rather than the minister that he was. How else to explain his inability to at least pretend to appreciate the efforts these artists had made?

I really can't wait to see td's art, framed and professionally displayed. I'm just glad I'm leaving my dad at home.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Please excuse me, but would you be so kind as to Shut Up! (if it's not a bother) -- Thank you

It’s soccer season again, and Sport’s back on a team of familiar kids (Go Wildcats!) and his favorite coach. At the game on Saturday, I sat with a few other soccer moms, watching our kids kill the other team (7-1), exchanging pleasantries, and enjoying the beautiful morning.

At least I tried to enjoy it, but behind me, surrounded by a gaggle of groupies, was The Blowhard. I’d never seen him before, but he was all too familiar. You know this guy. His lungs are fully developed from years of diaphragm training and time spent performing in community theater. He’s already starting to perfect the comb-over, and his clothes are much more flamboyant then the sweatshirts and jeans worn by the other men nearby. He’s charming, or at least he believes he’s charming, and can always attract a small crowd of desperate women hoping to find Mr. Right #3. He’s met important people and will drop names, has anecdotes and stories to meet every situation, can always turn the conversation back to his favorite subject: Him!

I was trying to tune him out. I really was. I would have moved away, but there’s only one set of bleachers -– metal, 3-tiered -– not very comfortable, but better than sitting down in a bunch of stickers. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he’d been talking at normal volume, but for some reason, he was projecting his voice over the bleachers and across the field to the chain-link fence.

“Of course, I’ve worked on Broadway…”

“$2000 dollars a month for an apartment! And it was so tiny…”

“Yes, I actually had dinner with So and So. He’s a really nice guy, but a little short…”

And on and on and on. It got so distracting, I almost missed Sport’s goal. I could feel my rage building. Nothing would have satisfied me more than to turn around and scream at him to “Shut Up!” But I was brought up with better manners than that. When it got too much to bear, I walked around the field to get a different perspective, not only of the game, but of myself.

Maybe the problem is with me. I'm too polite. Not assertive enough. I'm a wimp. I was having a conversation with Shank last week that underscores this assertion. My yoga teacher was sick and we found ourselves with a last minute sub who actually teaches Pilates. Had no yoga experience. She had us all drag out the exercise balls and warm up with some simple step moves. I was definitely not feeling it. I was in the mood for yoga -- elegant, calm, restful. Instead, I got a glimpse of myself tossing a little ball in the air while doing some hamstring stretches. Not a good image.

I contemplated leaving. I really did. But another woman beat me to the punch, and I didn't want the poor instructor to get down to the end of class with only a handful of losers barely hanging on. I was brave. I stuck it out. But I wasn't happy about it. Not happy at all.

Shank thinks my inability to leave the classroom was a good thing. It's true, I wanted to spare the instructor's feelings. He said he'd have done the exact same thing. Perhaps, as he says, it's some sort of Protestant guilt thing. He thinks Protestants get ripped off in the Acknowledgement of Guilt category behind Jews and the Catholics. We Protestants are positively dripping with it! His hypothesis: "I'm starting to formulate an idea about how politeness is the great lost art of our time, and part of politeness is the stiff-upper-lipped acceptance of temporarily uncomfortable situations."

So with The Blowhard, I chose to be polite. I removed myself. But one of these days, I'm going to tell somebody to shut up. And I'll probably throw in a "please" and a "thank you", just for good measure.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Grandma doesn't live here anymore

Grandma’s roommate is crazy. I don’t mean to be harsh, but the woman wanders around in her wheelchair, asking for help in putting on her shoes, searching for her mama, and muttering in a low but gravely voice. She wants my grandmother to help her, and it’s hard to turn down those insistent, plaintive demands.

“She’s crazy,” Grandma tells me, laughing a little. “God bless her. Crazy as a loon.”

After a series of mini-strokes about a month ago, Grandma’s condition deteriorated enough that she needed to be moved to an assisted living center. It’s been a difficult choice for my mother, but Grandma’s short-term memory is very limited. She needs to be constantly monitored, but she’s not like the other lost souls in her Alzheimer’s wing where she’s got a room.

Luckily, she’s got a good attitude about the whole situation. She knows Mom can’t handle any more stress. So she tries to be patient: she eats her three meals in the cafeteria with the other patients, she listens to live music, she attends craft programs.

But I wonder what she thinks about when she’s lying in the dark, trying to get to sleep.

Does she think about her life as the child of a cotton farmer in West Texas? Her marriage at the age of 16 to a preacher man, the birth of her two children, the miscarriage of another? Does she think on the loss of her first husband to lymphoma, her marriage to a widowed preacher, and his death after 30 years of marriage? What of all the vacations she took to research the family tree? Of her son, the scumbag who swindled her out of her life savings? Of her daughter, dealing with the effects of bipolar disorder? What about her 8 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren?

I found myself wishing that, as our elders aged, they'd also get smaller -- shrinking to the size of babies so we could have an easier time taking care of them. Don't most babies look like old men and women anyway? (Except Suri Cruise.)

On my way home, I started crying. I hated seeing Grandma like that, knowing she’s on the final leg of her journey. This woman was the key ingredient to building my self-esteem when I was a kid. She loved me unconditionally. She made me feel special. I felt helpless, wishing I could do something to make it easier. Is loving her enough?

I don't like facing the reality that most of us are destined for such a place. I hope I'll have to grace to be gracious, just like Grandma.

Monday, September 18, 2006

High on Jesus

Gouldie and I took the kids to Outback on a blustery, rain-soaked Sunday afternoon. We tried to arrange them in such a way that we could get a couple of sentences of adult conversation in before being interrupted. But all conversation stopped dead when our server knelt down to take our order.

I'm not sure, but I think my jaw dropped. I haven't seen such a flamboyant hairstyle since Cirque de Soleil came through town. He looked like a Dragonball Z character. The glare of his flair was dazzling. So numerous were the metal trinkets on his vest, I was certain if he stumbled in the parking lot, landing face down in a puddle, he would have drowned.

We placed our order, and he gave us his name.

"Ponder?" I squeaked. "Any relation to Ponder so-and-so?" (Really, who else would name their kid Ponder unless they were bigtime members of the Nazarene community.)

"Oh, yes. He's my great-uncle!" The kid beamed, blinding us with his pearly whites. He literally glowed.

"Wow, what a coincidence! He was our college president!"

Gouldie and I turned to each other as Ponder hurried to the kitchen to place our order. We giggled like the school girls we once had been.

"Should I tell him I once pretended to flick cigarette butts at his great-uncle's giant picture window?"

"Didn't he almost suspend you for going to the Big Barn Dance of 1986?"

"Not me, I never got caught!"

"Did he find out you were the one who printed up that fake Drumbeat newsletter?"

"I'll take that secret to my grave."

"How many times did you get caught breaking midnight curfew?"

"No comment. Remember when they finally let us wear shorts on campus?"

"God, we were such nerds."

That led us to another conversation about the utter ridiculousness of some of our college antics. If you haven't experienced it, you can't believe how much fun we used to have with our crowd of equally nerdy Jesus freaks, where playing Spoons, watching movies (Footloose rules!), going roller skating, or building a bonfire for a marshmallow roast was great entertainment.

"You guys were drunk, right -- or high?" our new friends have asked.

"High on Jesus, baby!"

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Marching to the beat of an Irish bodhran

LegoGuy has a new obsession. He's always been interested in Ireland, since his grandmother was born there and he's got an Irish name. We've got fond memories of him and C.F. Kats jigging along with the video of RiverDance. But now he wants to know more about Ireland's history and culture, and especially the music. He's been digging through his father's old LPs, pulling out albums by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. SO made him some copies on CD and LegoGuy's been taking them to school in his Discman. While he rides the bus, he drums along to the beat of "Tim Finnegan's wake" and "Brennan on the Moor." One of his friends asked to hear what he was listening to and was baffled. "What the heck is that?"

"Irish folk music," LegoGuy told her with a broad smile.

Every mother thinks her kids are great, and I'm no different. My oldest has inherited his father's laid back approach to life. Rarely does he get his feathers ruffled or his nose out of joint. He's always got a smile on his face, is good-natured and sweet. The thing I most admire about LegoGuy is he's never been afraid to step away from the crowd. He likes being original.

It's no secret that I didn't enjoy my elementary school years. Middle school was better, but I wanted to be just like everybody else. I didn't want to stick out or call attention to myself. I was afraid.

LegoGuy has no fear. He'll step up and challenge intolerance. He loves politics and isn't afraid to talk about the issues, even though he's one of a handful of Blues in a sea of Red. He's concerned about the environment, and he loves his family. On Sunday, he turned down an invitation to sit with his friends at the church picnic so he could eat lunch with us.

LegoGuy is brave. He's my hero.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Never enough time

I don't like marking anniversaries of tragedies. In case you haven't been paying attention, the fifth anniversary of September 11th is right around the corner, and emotions are running high. At work, I received a mass forward from one employee who was urging all of us to fly an American flag on Monday. "Pass this on to 11 people. It's the least you can do!" Yeah, it's quite literally the least we could do. As if five years have passed and I haven't once thought of what happened that day. Hell, everytime I see an airliner I think of September 11th.

I planned to avoid all this stuff, much like I avoided the anniversaries of the Murrah bombing. So painful was that event to my friends and community that even now I haven't been able to muster up the courage to visit the bombing museum. I did manage to see the bombing memorial one spring day, near Easter, and barely held it together. Someone had placed a colorful stuffed rabbit on one of the tiny little chairs, an Easter bunny meant for a child who would never grow up.

I wanted to avoid it, but I was laid up Saturday with a terrible headache. After dinner I took an Advil and retreated into my bedroom. I turned on the TV and spent some time switching channels, waiting to see if the headache would pass. I came across Flight 93, and put down the remote. The film captured all the emotions of that day with terrible intensity.

What gets me is the victims' desperate need to make a phone call -- to connect with a loved one for the last time. I find it hard to imagine what it would be like to make such a call, and even harder to imagine how I'd handle being on the receiving end. As one woman put it, "I'm so sorry, Mom. I know this is going to be harder on you than it will be on me." When the phone went dead, that mother knew her child was no more.

Finally the headache passed and I went outside to work a little in the front yard. LegoGuy had gone for his shower, but Sport was fighting the darkness. "Clean up your stuff and go inside," I told him, and so began the onset of his usual meltdown. I didn't feel like dealing with it. I ignored him and let SO handle it.

Later, I went to tuck him in. "You don't love me!" he accused. Fact is, I was feeling very put out, and he knew it. But when I looked into his face, I tried to imagine what it would feel like to loose him in the future, when he was a grown man and I was much older, and he only had a moment to say goodbye, and I only had a moment to tell him how he'd been everything I wanted in a son, everything and more. So I kissed him and cuddled him and held him very tight.

There's never enough time. Never enough.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sounds of childhood

What sounds do you most associate with your childhood? This was a question asked in a book I'm currently reading, The human voice: how this extraordinary instrument reveals essential clues about who we are, by Anne Karpf. I had to sit for a minute and really scour my memories, but I came up with three.

Sound #1: the click click of the car blinker. My father would turn it on, signalling we were making a right hand turn onto our street. Late at night, we'd be returning from a church event after ingesting casseroles heavy with butter and cream of mushroom soup. If we weren't fighting over who got to "ride shotgun", we were dozing in the backseat of the car. Unfettered by seatbelts, we kids would barely register the drive home. When we heard that blinker go on, we knew it wouldn't be long before we'd be snuggled in our beds, safe and sound.

Sound #2: the drone of the air conditioner. After a hot and humid day at elementary school, I'd walk home and stretch out on our black Naugahyde couch. I loved to press my cheek into the cold plastic, watch a rerun of Gilligan's Island, and just veg. The air conditioner nearby made a comforting "ummmmmmmm" as I relaxed, one hand tracing lines into the carpet.

Sound #3: the musical tones of Yellow Submarine, played on the organ. Saturday mornings, around 11:30, my mother would flip the power switch of her electric organ, pull out her stack of sheet music, and climb onto the bench. She'd punch in a rock and roll setting (complete with drums), slip out of her shoes, and start working the foot pedals. Soon the strains of her favorite Beatles song would waft through the house. My sister and I shared a bedroom, one wall of which butted up against the back of the organ. And every Saturday morning, without fail, we would wake up to the tune of Yellow Submarine. It was impossible to ignore. Mom cranked up the volume as high as it would go. It was her special way of waking us up when she thought we'd been in bed too long.

What sounds connect you to powerful childhood memories?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How I turned my dog into a tittie baby

Last week I was out in the garden, trying to bring some semblance of order into Hell Corner -- the long-neglected northeast side of our yard. I've managed to ignore and stall getting to it because I hate pulling grass, and grass has jumped from the yard into this particular flowerbed and invaded with a vengeance.

I had some pretty good excuses: the mosquitoes were bad and I was out of OFF, I'd worn out my last pair of gardening gloves, and we've been having something like a solid month of 100+ days. But an unexpected cool front came in and I trudged out, bringing Bella along for company.

Our previous dog was a little lady, who'd sit next to me and quietly watch flitting butterflies. Bella, however, is no lady. As I kneeled and yanked the runners from the ground, she'd trot over with her toys and nudge me, wanting me to play. I kept shooing her away, but she's relentless. Each time I pushed her away, she came back for more abuse. Finally, I took her out front and leashed her to a tree. The boys were practicing their soccer skills, and I figured she'd be fine out there with them.

Would you believe that dopey dog barked for me the whole time? She wasn't interested in watching the boys play ball. She wanted to be off that leash and in the backyard. The boys finally got tired of her noise and released her. She promptly ran to the back fence to bark for my attention. I finally gave up and took her in the house with me.

I added it all up: she follows me everywhere I go in the house, waits outside my door when I take a nap, jumps on the couch to cuddle with me, and basically is attached to me at the ankles. I've turned her into a tittie baby, and I didn't even try.

I guess my next step will be dressing her up and carrying her around in a purse.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Welcome to my cat blog

I was working on a book Monday that really got under my skin. In it, the author made a passing remark about blogs, breaking them down into three categories: cat blogs: in which people write about their pets, children, lovers, jobs, likes and dislikes; boss blogs, in which employers post information pertinent to their employees; and viral blogs, in which the passionate try to affect a change, primarily in politics.

I was a little insulted, so I visited to take a look at some other definitions. There, I was subjected to a rude beating about the head, chest, and neck. As of this moment, there are 36 different definitions of the word blog, most of which are derogatory. I mean, some people really don’t like them:

A meandering, blatantly uninteresting online diary that gives the author the illusion that people are interested in their stupid, pathetic life. Consists of such riveting entries as "homework sucks" and "I slept until noon today."

A place where people bitch about their daily activities in which nobody else is interested. Topics covered include (but are not limited to): why they argued with a boyfriend; how they ended up together at last; daily anorexic activities like drinking blended organic fruits and vegetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner; talking about cutting themselves with a razor blade and how good it felt; bitching about their shopping activities and what they got, etc.

A page on the internet, regularly updated by someone who, ostensibly, can find nothing better to do with their time.

Zipping over to Wikipedia, I was somewhat mollified to read a less insulting definition:

The modern blog evolved from the online diary where people would keep a running account of their personal lives.

Folks, I’m not interested in forcing the hapless internet user into reading inane and rambling postings all about me ... me ... me. I think of my blog as a writing exercise, and a great way to keep friends and family informed about what’s going on with me and my family. When I first started keeping a blog, I sent an email to all my friends and selected family members, excited about this new tool. I don’t think they were nearly as excited about it as I was. To date, I’m certain that one out-of-town friend keeps up with me on a regular basis (you know who you are, Sweetcheekscakes), and a New Orleanian college pal may read it occasionally, but rarely comments. I have some devoted in-town friends that read it, and their comments and positive feedback keep me stoked.

So, okay, I’ll admit it. I’m the proud owner of a cat blog. And I don’t even have a cat. But I do have a dog name Bella, and I discovered the other day that I have somehow turned her from an independent, feisty little Westie into a tittie baby of immense proportions.

But that’s a posting for another day.

Monday, August 28, 2006

In space, no one can hear you scream

We’ve been tormenting LegoGuy for months with our plan to introduce him to the world of scary films. One benefit of having children is passing on to them our own quirky interests and passions. Like many Americans, we love a good scare. Now that LegoGuy’s stepped across the threshold into the teenage years, we figured that the thunderstorm that hit us on Saturday was a perfect night to pull out one of our favorite scare fests, Alien.

Sure, there are other films out there that can scare the bejeezus out of you. Personally, I can’t stand to watch any more serial killer movies. They come too close to reality and make me have nightmares. I’m not willing to expose my kid to blood and gore extravaganzas since I don’t even like those, myself. I like thrillers rather than horror. I like an original idea, something that’s smart rather than shocking. I like movies that keep you thinking about them days after the first viewing.

Alien fits all my criteria. Think about it for a second. A crew of seven stumbles across a radio signal that is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. When they investigate, one of their members is attacked by a facehugger. The victim haplessly incubates an alien life form that later bursts from his chest, sheds its skin at an alarming rate and grows into an immense, acid dripping, killing machine. To me, the alien is not nearly as frightening as the aspect of becoming an incubator for its progeny. That’s horror, folks.

LegoGuy spent much of the second half of the movie with a pillow over his head. When Ripley battled the beast, blasting it into space through the hold of her escape shuttle, he could barely breathe.

“That was the most tense thing I have ever seen,” he said when it was finally over. Later, I heard him retelling the whole story to his brother, who’d been holed up in our bedroom watching cartoons. Sport’s not old enough to appreciate the thrill of a good scare. He’s still got some real horrors to deal with in the next few years: his first real crush, sex-ed classes, and co-ed bathrooms.

When faced with co-ed bathrooms, I'll take an incubating chestburster anytime.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Secrets and flies

Not long ago, I cataloged a book called PostSecret. It documented a community art project in which people were invited to anonymously share a secret. Written on postcards, the secrets poured in: regrets, fears, betrayals, confessions, childhood humiliations. Many of the postcards were handcrafted -- little works of art in themselves. Browsing through the book, there are some startling revelations:

* He's been in prison for two years because of what I did.
9 more to go.
* I tell people I'm an atheist, but I believe
I'm going to Hell.
* I'm sorry. We were young, and I think about -- and regret --
it every day.
* I faked sorrow at my Dad's funeral, when I, in fact,
was selfishly happy I didn't have to wipe his butt anymore.

So what's my dark, terrible secret? I was discussing this with a friend the other day. Brace yourself:

* I once stood by while a neighbor kid drowned a toad.
I didn't intervene.

No big deal, really, except to the toad. But I still feel badly about it. I came up with another one last night:

* I like eating in hole-in-the-wall restaurants, despite the flies.

The dark thoughts I have from time to time would probably take up an entire package of postcards, but the only person I'd ever be comfortable sharing them with is my therapist. Sometimes when I'm really tired, and the demands of parenting overwhelm me, I wonder what it would be like to be childless. Sometimes, late at night, when my parents are driving me crazy (which is most of the time), I wish I was an orphan. When the sun comes up, I'm usually able to chase these thoughts away, and face the day with a renewed optimism.


Monday, August 21, 2006

40 years into the future

This morning I went to a birthday/retirement party for a friend who’s worked for 40 years at the library system. Forty years! I think this was his first real job after graduating from college. I’ve been trying to imagine what life would have been like if I’d stayed at some of those early jobs I worked. What a journey!

After a semester of grad school at the University of Maryland, I decided a Master’s degree in creative writing really wasn’t the best route to go, so I came back to Oklahoma to consider my options (and be near my boyfriend). I got a job as a typesetter and sometime reporter for a local newspaper, making just barely over minimum wage. I moved into a dive of an apartment was thrilled by my independence. Over time, the editor let me write some mildly entertaining stories and take some photographs of grand openings and candid photos of kids playing in the park. I came up with a summer series, creating a Fun-O-Meter and rating different activities on a scale of 1-10. Totally cheesy! Would I have been able to spend 40 years at that job? Not without ending up as the co-editor in the corner office, a shriveled up woman with a dowager hump, who muttered to herself and obsessively collected designer Barbie dolls.

Next it was on to a desktop publishing job, putting together specialized directories. I learned how to do this on one of the early Macs, and got to be a whiz at Pagemaker. My boss was a chain-smoking, coffee-drinking sexual harasser, but in the days before Anita Hill, no one had the nerve to call it such. He was always wanting to pop my back. He’d bring me into his office to play mind games. My supervisor was his live-in girlfriend, so there was really no one I could talk to about my discomfort. Lasting 40 years in this job was not an option as the owner went bankrupt and my boss was investigated for misappropriation of funds. I was never more thrilled than the day I was let go. Sweet release!

On to another stint as a desktop publisher, this time sharing office space with a certified psychic. The days would drag out as my boss only had enough work coming in to keep me busy for half the day. The rest of the time I would read, balance my checkbook, or eavesdrop on the pyschic's sessions. She had a pretty good client base. Often, I'd hear her talk about a future journey, or a big change just around the corner, or perhaps the need to evaluate a certain relationship -- stuff that was so general as to apply to anyone's situation. Staying there wasn't an option: not enough to keep me busy. But I definitely could see myself, after 40 years, becoming Madame AQ: the Typesetting Psychic.

"Hear your future, and, while you wait, let me make you up a nifty set of business cards!"

Friday, August 18, 2006

As the light dies in my eyes

Still adjusting to our back-to-school schedule. We’ve implemented a complex morning shower routine, and it seems to be working. Sport, however, tends to linger under the water spray and takes a leisurely approach to waking up. LegoGuy took it upon himself to hurry his brother along. He burst into the bathroom, shouting like a Drill Sergeant.

“In this house, we take military showers! Do you know what a military shower is, soldier? That’s 60 seconds of water time. Sixty seconds! Let’s go! Get it in gear! Hurry, hurry, hurry!”

SO and I were at the table, laughing at the muffled shouts. LegoGuy came out to the kitchen with a mischievous grin. “I saw the light go out of his eyes,” he said.

The boys and their dad aren’t quite used to these early mornings, having slept late most of the summer. And all these bodies to bump into while I’m trying to get ready for work have thrown me off as well. I’m thinking by next week we’ll be acclimated. The hardest thing to get used to, however, is the loss of free time. We’ve got to worry about meet-the-teacher night, open house, parent/teacher conferences, orchestra practice, homework, concerts, piano lessons, theory lessons, recitals, contests, music programs. No more family movie nights, quiet reading on the couch, leisurely visits with friends, impromptu soccer games on the front lawn. The familiar fist of tension starts to grow in my chest.

Adding to the stress is the possibility that LegoGuy will start “dating” this year. We told him he could go on group dates as long there was an adult somewhere to chaperone. Yes, it sounds old-fashioned, but I can’t imagine sending a group of 7th graders out minus a level-headed grown-up to keep an eye on things.

I’m also sorry to report that Sport has reached the age that he will not hold my hand in public. I noticed this when walking him to VBS a couple weeks ago. I reached out to take his hand and he pulled away. “I still love you, Mom,” he said, “But I am in 3rd grade now.”

That fist of tension in my chest is now mixed with a little sadness. They have to grow up, don't they?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Public pool, dead ahead!

Had lunch today with Gouldie and The Boy. As we finished our sandwiches, he interrupted to ask breathlessly, "After we're done, can we go to the store and buy -- can we buy -- can we get..."

"Yes?" The anticipation builds.

"...a wheelchair?"

Explosive laughter.

I think I'll get one, too. After our field trip to the public pool yesterday, I'm in need of another way to get around. I stepped on a plastic Titanic replica and bruised the arch of my foot. What was once a fun kid activity is now an adult death trap.

To pass the time in the dog days of a San Antonio summer, my parents would drop us off at the local public pool. We'd spend hours there, jumping off the diving board, doing the "NESTEA Plunge," playing Marco Polo, and basically annoying the hell out of any grown-ups who happened to cross our path. This being the South Side, where few had air conditioning and fewer had private pools, we were generally packed in the water shoulder to shoulder. I don't remember ever swimming -- it was more like bobbing up and down. Once the lifeguard whistled all of us out of the pool due to a passing lightning storm. Instead of waiting around for Dad to pick us up, we decided to walk home -- without shoes and in the blistering heat. We swaddled our feet in towels to protect the tender soles. God, what a bunch of idiots.

So we're at the pool yesterday, and as soon as we get there, in goes Sport. He spends the next 7 minutes cajoling me to get in. I, however, like to do things gradually. LegoGuy grabs his plastic Titanic and they re-enact the sinking. While they are occupied, I sneak in and start a leisurely swim down the middle of the pool. Along the way I'm assaulted by two red-headed girls who nearly cannonball into me from the side, a teenager with magenta-colored hair who is rooted to the bottom and refuses to budge as I come closer, and the chubbiest 5-year-old kid I've ever seen, gripping onto a noodle for dear life. There's no room to swim. There's barely room to breathe.

Before I know it, the boys have spotted me and are racing toward me at top speed, begging me to "Watch this!" I stand like an iceberg, watching the inevitable. Everywhere I turn, LegoGuy and Sport are there, plunging the tiny Titanic under the water, subjecting its victims to infinite drownings and resurrections. At one point, I let down my guard and start to walk toward the shallow side to take a breather. That's when I step down hard on the stupid ship. No, I didn't swear. Out loud, anyway.

Wheelchair, anyone? Or at least a tranquilizer.